Coronavirus, Multiple Sclerosis, Health Fears, and Lessons

By Stacie Prada

With the current coronavirus spreading, wellness is at the forefront of the news. I live in Washington state where the first confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 (the coronavirus) in the United States occurred. My neurologist’s office is in Kirkland, the epicenter of the US outbreak. We have a confirmed case in my community, and others are pending test results.

I’m writing this on March 8, 2020, and news updates are frequent. By the time I hit publish on this post, the status of the virus will have changed. The statistics change often, but the consistent message I hear is this: the virus is spreading; if it hasn’t reached your town yet, it will at some point.

The dynamics feel a lot like living with multiple sclerosis in general. I can stay as well as I can with nutrition, therapies, activity and good hygiene, but I don’t have complete control over my health. I will do my best by cleaning surfaces often, washing my hands, using hand sanitizer and most difficult of all for me, not touching my mouth and eyes. I’m searching the internet for reliable and MS-specific guidance, and I am happy to see some good resources that answered my specific questions. I need to do everything anyone else should do to avoid having the virus reach any point of entry into my body, and for now keep taking my disease modifying therapy. I will also weigh whether to modify my plans as the virus spreads. I can do all these preventative measures, and just like I might have a relapse due to MS, I still might get infected with coronavirus.

It’s interesting to me to see others (who presumably don’t live with a chronic illness) react to the health threat. I hope they don’t get infected, and I hope they endure and recover well if they do get infected. Their fear and concern for getting sick make me feel like they’re experiencing what I often experience living with MS. The uncertainty is stressful.

If they do get infected, I hope they aren’t blamed for not doing enough to avoid getting sick. I doubt they will, and I think some people would think it’s ridiculous to blame a patient. But when I liken this outbreak to having MS, I feel compelled to comment on the judgments I hear. In trying to compliment me on living well with my MS, sometimes people will compare me to someone they know with MS. They’ll comment that their friend, relative or neighbor isn’t doing very well, but they don’t take care of themselves. These are extremely well-meaning people who care, but I think they’re off-base. That person who isn’t doing well might not be able to take better care of themselves, BECAUSE they are having too many health challenges. And if they did have different health habits, there is no guarantee that they would be in better health. Sure, the odds increase, but there are no guarantees.

The community conversations surrounding preparing for the virus outbreak before it widely affects my community are heartening. I see offers to shop for and deliver groceries and supplies to our vulnerable friends and neighbors. I see people creating resources and networks available for anyone who wishes to avoid being exposed or who is sick and needs assistance.

I hope to use this as a lesson for myself to accept help if needed. I reluctantly admit I’m a bit independent and prideful, and I don’t often let those outside my close circle know when I could use some help. I’d rather do without and get through it. I know this frustrates my friends and prevents them from feeling of use. As I see my community rising to the occasion with this virus outbreak, I’m choosing to see this as an opportunity of connection. We’re in this together, and I will work on remembering that when the coronavirus threat is over but my MS is still with me.

For more information about the coronavirus:

*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 just shy of 38 years old.  Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/ 

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As a national nonprofit organization, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America is a leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a toll-free Helpline; award-winning publications including a magazine, The Motivator; website featuring educational videos and research updates; S.E.A.R.C.H.™ program to assist the MS community with learning about different treatment choices; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; a resource database, My MS Resource Locator; equipment distribution ranging from grab bars to wheelchairs; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; educational events and activities; MRI funding and insurance advocacy; and more. For additional information, please visit http://www.mymsaa.org or call (800) 532-7667.

Comments

  • Amy R DeGrand says:

    I also am an MS warrior. I love the fact that those who are not dealing with MS can understand more of what we go through with the concerns about the Corona virus. It is also nice to see that I am not the only one with the independence issues. I am in Michigan and we just had our 1st couple confirmed cases in our state. After having something like MS the other virus and illness are a concern but do not worry me. I will continue to live my current lifestyle and stay focused on living the best life I can, with continuing to wash hands and beware. Thank you for sharing and stay strong my warrior sister.

    • Stacie Prada says:

      Thank you so much for commenting, Amy! So true that continuing to live life the best you can is a healthy attitude and approach under any circumstances! It feels good to have sisters in this life. Thank you. Take good care! 🧡

  • Rebecca Boubin says:

    I am in my 25th year of ms. I began using Avonex 20 years ago and have done remarkable on it. Things are now going bad for me with extreme leg pain, dizziness and I have had several falls lately. If I could get someone to point me in the right direction I would be very appreciative. My PCP retired last year and I am having trouble finding a PCP who is willing to prescribe pain medication due to the oxy crisis. Do you have any suggestions for me. I live in Rochester, New York 14618.
    Rebecca Boubin

    • Angel Blair says:

      Hi Rebecca, thank you for reaching out to the MSAA with your comment. I am very sorry to hear of the symptom challenges you are having. I will email you some information directly that I hope can be helpful. Take care, Angel, MSAA Client Services Specialist

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